19:40 GMT +3 hours22 November 2014
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National Unity 'Top Priority' for Georgia, Says New Leader

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(updated 18:28 28.10.2014)
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Restoration of national unity will remain the priority of the Georgian government under its new administration, prime-minister designate Bidzina Ivanishvili said on Thursday.

Restoration of national unity will remain the priority of the Georgian government under its new administration, prime-minister designate Bidzina Ivanishvili said on Thursday.

"Despite the fact that our positions are opposed in principle on resolution of these conflicts, the Georgian, Abkhazian and Ossetian communities should take upon themselves responsibility for the security of the region and the safety of future generations," Ivanishvili said at a presentation of the new government's program for the plenary session of parliament.

Ivanishvili said his government would pay particular attention to creation of a secure region and formation of a warning mechanism for threats from incidents, and inclusion of international organizations in the process of guaranteeing security. He also stressed the need to start talks on security-guaranteeing mechanisms which should be devised in the format of the UN and OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe).

"The path will be opened to national diplomacy, economic restoration, and business projects. We will welcome family, kin and personal contacts which support the populace living on all sides of the disputed lines," he added.

Involvement of friendly states and international organizations will also help support activity by the non-governmental sector which will assist dialog between political experts, business, journalists, farmers, ecologists, medical workers and students and other interest groups, he said.

"Another strategic task is to set up support fund for the social and economic development of the regions near the conflict zones, in Mingrelia (northwest Georgia) and Shida Kartli [central Georgia bordering North Ossetia]," he said

Citizens of Abkhazia and South Ossetia will be allowed to freely take advantage of any service or preference given to other Georgian citizens across the whole country, he said.

Relations between Moscow and Tbilisi have been persistently blighted since Georgia's independence from the Soviet Union in 1991 over the issue of Tbilisi's relations with its breakaway regions. As long ago as 1991, Tbilisi accused Moscow of fomenting separatism in South Ossetia and Abkhazia to undermine its independence from Moscow. Russia has previously accused Tbilisi of ignoring the aspirations of national minorities in South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Both republics already enjoyed an element of independence from Tbilisi after Georgia was wracked by civil war and separatist conflict in the early 1990's, but neither have gained widespread international recognition and Georgia regards them as breakaway territories.

The already strained relations between Georgia and Russia plunged to an all-time low during the reign of President Mikheil Saakashvili, culminating in a five-day conflict in August 2008 over the breakaway republic of South Ossetia. Georgia suffered a humiliating defeat, and the de facto loss of one-fifth of its territory, after Russia recognized the independence of South Ossetia and another breakaway republic, Abkhazia.

Ivanishvili's Georgian Dream alliance won the parliamentary elections in Georgia on October 1, gaining him the post of prime minister in the new government. The majority of the current president's executive powers will be transferred to the new prime minister under constitutional reforms that take effect in 2013.